Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall equals Pumpkin time

It is fall and thoughts turn to pumpkin pie and to Halloween jack-o-lanterns. But, can you use a pumpkin for BOTH a jack-o-lantern AND for eating?
Young children can enjoy creating jack-o-lanterns by drawing the eyes and mouth on the pumpkin with markers. They can be creative and have a good time and the pumpkin is still safe for eating.
Pumpkin pie tastes great this time of year and is also an excellent source of nutrients. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that pumpkin is loaded with an important antioxidant, beta-carotene.  Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease.
Here are some tips on preparing a pumpkin for making pumpkin pie.
            Work on a clean surface. Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the pumpkin thoroughly with cool tap water to remove any surface dirt that could be transferred to the inside of the pumpkin during cutting.

To Prepare the Pumpkin

            Start by removing the stem with a sharp knife.  Next, cut in half.  In any case, remove the stem and scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the stringy mass. A messy job, but it will pay off.
            The pumpkin should be cooked in one of three ways, boiled, baked in oven, or microwaved.
            With the Boiling/Steaming Method: Cut the pumpkin into rather large chunks. Rinse in cold water. Place pieces in a large pot with about a cup of water. The water does not need to cover the pumpkin pieces. Cover the pot and boil 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, or steam 10 to 12 minutes. Check for doneness by poking with a fork. Drain the cooked pumpkin in a colander.
            With the Oven Method: Cut pumpkin in half, scraping away stringy mass and seeds. Rinse under cold water. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a large cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour or until fork tender.
           If you choose the Microwave Method: Cut pumpkin in half, place cut side down on a microwave safe plate or tray. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for doneness. If necessary continue cooking at 1-2 minute intervals until fork tender.

Now that we have cooked pumpkin we’re ready to prepare the puree.

            When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove the peel using a small sharp knife and your fingers. Put the peeled pumpkin in a food processor and puree or use a food mill, strainer or potato masher to form a puree. Don't let your cooked pumpkin set at room temperature longer than two hours in the process of making puree.

When cleaning out the pumpkin, don’t waste the seeds.
      Instead, roast and salt the seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack. Let the children slosh through the fibers in pursuit of the slippery seeds.
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible.
  3. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.
  4. Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter.
  5. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan.
  6. Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
  7. Cool the seeds, then shell and eat or pack in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Yield 2 cups    

For more information on Food, Safety and Nutrition contact the Wise County Extension office at 940-627-3341.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Master Marketer Program Moves to Vernon, Texas in January of 2014

How would you like to increase your net returns more than $250,000 dollars over the next ten years? If so, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension may have the program that can help you do it – the Master Marketer Program. The  Master Marketer Program is a national award winning, in-depth, intensive risk management education training that teaches participants how to develop marketing plans, evaluate marketing alternatives, manage production and price risk, and helps teach the skills and discipline necessary to execute a risk management and marketing plan.  The 64 hour curriculum is offered as four, two-day sessions held every two weeks, and is the most intensive marketing/risk management training provided by Extension anywhere in United States.   

The next Master Marketer program will be in Vernon, Texas starting in January.  In 2 ½ post training surveys, 186 previous Vernon Master Marketer participants indicated their gross income increased on average $34,000 annually based on what they had learned in the training. “There is no reason that program graduates shouldn’t receive this level of increased returns for the next ten years” according to Stan Bevers, Extension Economist and coordinator for the Vernon program. “Interested participants should weigh carefully the registration fee, the time commitment and travel costs associated with the program against the potential of a $250,000+ increase in returns over the next ten years before signing up for the program. Personally, I think it is a no brainer.”

“It’s been six years since the last Master Marketer Training was held in Vernon and in all likelihood, it will be the last.  If a producer ever thought about attending the training or a past graduate wants a refresher they need to sign up early. It may be their last change,” says Bevers.

The instructors for the training consist of top professionals from industry and universities from around the country.  A wide range of topics are covered to enhance marketing/risk management skills.  Case studies, group discussions and simulation exercises will be used wherever possible to provide students with experience using real tools that they can use on their own farm and ranch operations when they leave the class.

The Master Marketer Program will be held near Vernon, Texas, at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center.  The first two-day session will begin on January 22 - 23, 2014.  The registration fee for the program is $340 which includes all meals and materials.  The registration fees fall short of covering all costs of this program.  Most of the cost of the program is covered by grants from and partnerships with other organizations including the Texas Corn Producers Board, Texas Grain Sorghum Producers Board, Texas Farm Bureau, the Cotton State Support Committee, and Texas Wheat Producers Board.  Anyone interested in attending or learning more about this program can get more information by contacting the Wise County Extension office at (940) 627-3341 or by calling Stan Bevers at (940) 552-9941, ext. 231.  In addition, interested persons can register on line at   Due to the hands-on nature of the course, attendance is limited. The deadline for registration is January 15, 2014. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Please make sure to share this event with others!

Don't forget that if you register early you will eligible for an extra drawing at the end of the event!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Water Conservation and Quality

It’s a blessing when it falls from the sky to replenish the fields and lakes and streams. It’s wasted when it overflows from sprinkler systems into the street. It’s fun to play in and delicious when cold. It’s a necessity for personal health, growing crops, maintaining life in all its forms. It’s water. And it’s available only in finite supply.
As the water supply grows smaller, our population and the rate of water use grows. That’s where the necessity for conservation comes in. We must reduce the amount of water usage per capita in order to increase the supply.
Today we have many efficient water saving plumbing fixtures and faucets. Look for the WaterSense label to help you identify the super water savers. Many Energy Star appliances have improved technology that allows them to use up to 50% less water.
What about older houses?  What can residents do to conserve water when their homes have older plumbing? The first action is to fix leaks. Even small leaks waste a large amount of water. Fixing leaks doesn’t usually cost all that much. It may just involve replacing a washer.
The other thing that we can all do to save water is to change some of our water use behaviors. Many of our everyday tasks can be done with less water.
In order to help with this behavior change, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is challenging people across the state to reduce their water use by approximately 40 gallons per day. The 40 Gallon Challenge calls on both residents and businesses to save millions of gallons of water annually and save money on their monthly water bills. The 40-Gallon Challenge allows Texans to compete against other Americans who are taking the challenge in their states. At the program’s website,, Texans can pledge to adopt water-saving practices and see how many gallons of water they can expect to save. The bottom line is to make every drop count.
 Another way of making every drop county is by monitoring the quality of our water. With this fact in mind, the Wise County Extension office is providing a water well screening day for area residents on October 30, 2013.  Water samples are due to the Extension office between 8:00 - 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, October 30.  Samples from private water wells will be screened for common contaminants including fecal coliform bacteria, nitrates, and high salinity.  The cost is $15 per sample. Water collection bags and instructions should be picked up from the Extension office, located at 206 S. State Street in Decatur (940/627-3341), prior to collection of the water. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

When Have You Tested Your Private Water Well?

Private water wells should be tested annually.  The Texas Well Owner Network, in partnership with the Wise County Office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Water Resources Institute, and with support from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board is providing a water well screening day for area residents on October 30, 2013, at the Decatur Office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Please turn fresh water samples in on Wednesday, October 30, between 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. at the Extension office. Samples from private water wells will be screened for common contaminants including fecal coliform bacteria, nitrates, and high salinity.  The cost is $15 per sample.

The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in water indicates that waste from humans or warm-blooded animals may have contaminated the water.  Water contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria is more likely to also have pathogens present that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, or other symptoms. 

Water with nitrates at levels of 10 parts per million (ppm) is considered unsafe for human consumption.  Nitrate levels above 10 ppm can disrupt the ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a condition called methemoglobinemia. Infants less than 6 months of age and young livestock are most susceptible.

Salinity as measured by Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) will also be determined for each sample.  Water with high TDS levels may leave deposits and have a salty taste.  Additionally, using water with high TDS for irrigation may damage the soil or plants.

Pick up a sample bag and sampling instructions from the Wise County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Office before Wednesday, October 30.  The Wise County Extension Office (940/ 627-3341) is in Decatur, at 206 S. State.  It is very important that only sample bags from the Wise County Extension Office be used and all instructions for proper sampling followed to ensure accurate results.

A meeting explaining screening results will be held at 5:30 p.m. on October 31, 2013 at the Wise County Sheriff Posse Grounds, Women’s Building, 3101 S. FM 51, Decatur, Texas. For more information, please contact Todd Vineyard, Wise County Extension Agent at (940) 627-3341.  It is extremely important to be at the meeting to receive your results, learn corrective measures for identified problems, and to improve your understanding of private well management.

Support for the Texas Well Owner Network program is provided through Clean Water Act §319(h) Nonpoint Source funding from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Agreement No. 10-04.